Personal Response – The Color Purple

Prior to the introduction of, The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, we were given an introduction through a handout, introducing the characters and the theme of the book. The introduction helps us ease into a mindset to explore the topic of which the book addresses. The theme being the societal expectations and gender roles at its time (20th century).

I am fourteen years old (p.1).

First he put his thing up gainst my hip and sort of wiggle it around. Then he grab hold my titties. Then he push his thing inside my pussy. When that hurt, I cry. He start to choke me, saying You better shut up and git used to it (p.1).

Naturally, I was surprised like many others by the immediate introduction of hebephilia. However, the introduction allows Walker to underscore the gravity of the issues the novel addresses. After the book caught my attention, I found myself beginning to pay attention to the story more than I may typically have with other novels of similar nature. Additionally, the epistolary style of the novel caught my attention as I tried to navigate the letters written by a young girl without much education in writing and general knowledge of the world. The raw and unfiltered perspective provided by Celie’s letters offered a unique insight into her world, making the narrative seem more compelling and natural.

Walker initially portrays Celie as a young girl subjugated to abuse, who found comfort in making herself quiet and invisible while she takes all the abuse into her 30s. As Celie continued to be quiet and not defend herself, I found my empathy towards her dropping as I began being agitated by her lack of willpower. However, as the novel progresses, Celie undergoes a significant transformation. With the help of Shug Avery, Celie gradually comes to accept herself as a living person through an external viewpoint of her life and those whom Celie has encountered with drastically different personalities such as Nettie and Sofia. Celie gains the ability to synthesize her thoughts and feelings into a voice that is fully her own and becomes a happy, successful, and independent woman.

When Celie begins to fight back, we witness a transformation not only in her character but also in the male characters around her. Most notably, Mr. _____, who is portrayed as an abusive husband. After Celie stands up to him, he undergoes a deep personal transformation and eventually develops a friendly relationship with Celie. Additionally, we see Celie being surprised by the beautiful changes to the property as she goes to visit her stepfather for the first time since she was married off to Mr. ____, and finds him as an approachable gentleman (pp.178-180). These transformations in the male characters, triggered by Celie’s defiance, show that they too are victims of societal norms and expectations. By the end of the book, I had found myself not disliking any particular characters based solely on the actions they had committed.

Overall, I found myself liking the book and often looking forward to reading more letters. The themes of societal expectations, gender roles, and personal transformation explored by the book has been a mostly positive experience. Although the English were hard to understand at first, I found myself getting used to it as Celie continued to develop her English writing abilities. However, I did often find myself disliking some letters, especially those of Nettie’s as I felt they were acting as unnecessary and boring fillers. If I were to give The Color Purple by Alice Walker an overall rating out of ten, I would give it an eight.


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